About an hour and a half's drive north west of Aberdeen, nestled in amongst the granite-stone, pine-covered peaks of the Cairngorms, those who dare to make pilgrimage may stumble across a rather special place, a veritable Vale of Avalon of the Scotch whisky world. This place is of course the small, ramshackle Highland village of Dufftown, in prime Speyside territory, a settlement built in effect by the Scotch whisky industry, which remains a home to several of the oldest and most prestigious distilleries in Scotland today.
It is no surprise then, that this is the place chosen by William Grant, to build the distillery of his dreams - arguably the doyenne of all the great highland distilleries - Glenfiddich. Grant chose Dufftown partially because it was his birthplace, but also for its proliferation of barley farms, which exploit the rich alluvial soil of the area to grow the very best crop. Even today, Glenfiddich prioritises the purchase of superior locally grown barley over foreign imports.
'Consistency, it seems, is the key. Glenfiddich is one of very few distilleries which can claim to have remained in family hands throughout its lifespan.'
What's more, the distillery sits nestled in a valley through which the Robbie Dhu runs, the stream that provides a constant source of crisp, mineral-rich highland spring water, ideal for distilling the purest Scotch. Clearly, Mr Grant knew what he was about, because the distillery stands proud in its self-same place today, incorporating the buildings which Grant built in 1886, with his life savings, bare hands, seven sons, two daughters and one stone mason over the course of a year. Nowadays, visit the distillery and you're really visiting an estate - the Grant family of today has purchased over 12,000 acres of land surrounding the distillery to ensure that their precious water source from the Robbie Dhu remains uncontaminated and of a consistent quality.
Indeed, consistency it seems is the key. Glenfiddich is one of very few distilleries nowadays which can claim to have truly remained in family hands throughout its lifespan and it is this continuity of care, knowledge and familial approach to the craft of whisky distilling that arguably gives Glenfiddich its extraordinary breadth and depth of flavour. The Grant family has had a solid 127 years to not only perfect their work, but also to innovate, experiment and above all elevate their once humble distilling operation into a high respected global icon of fine Scotch whisky.